The 404 error is one of the most widely recognised errors on the web, but not everyone knows how it affects search engine optimisation (SEO). In this article, we will explain what a 404 error is, its causes, how to resolve it and its implications for SEO.
Definition of Error 404
A 404 error, also known as ‘Not Found’, is an error message that appears when the server cannot find the requested resource. It means that the user has tried to access a page that does not exist on the server.
Causes of Error 404
There are many causes that can lead to a 404 error, such as:
- Deletion of a page
- Moving the page to a different URL path
- Incorrect link on the page or in the search results
- Entering an incorrect URL by the user
Resolving a 404 error
Here are some ways to resolve a 404 error:
- Check the URL is correct – make sure the address entered in the browser bar is correct.
- Search the page – use the search function on the page to find the desired resource.
- Create a new page – if a page has been deleted or moved, create a new page with a similar theme and redirect users to it.
- Set up a custom 404 error page – create an attractive and helpful 404 error page to help users find what they are looking for.
- Update links – check all links on your site and make sure they lead to existing resources.
Impact of Error 404 on SEO
A 404 error can affect SEO in several ways:
- Negative user experience – if users encounter a 404 error, they may become frustrated and quickly leave the site.
- Decrease in search engine rankings – search engines may downgrade a page with 404 errors because they consider it less valuable to users.
- Loss of links – if a page with a 404 error previously had links from other sites, these links will cease to work and convey SEO value.
- Dispersion of “crawling” – Search engines have limited resources to index pages, and 404 errors can cause crawlers to waste time trying to visit non-existent pages.
How to monitor and fix 404 errors
It is important to regularly check your site for 404 errors and then fix them. Here are some tools that can help:
- Google Search Console – this tool allows you to track 404 errors on your site and informs the site owner about them. You can also see what pages are leading to the errors and fix them.
- Page analysis tools – such as Screaming Frog or Ahrefs will help identify 404 errors by checking all the links on the page.
- Server logs – analysing server logs can reveal 404 errors that are not visible to users but affect crawlers.